The timeline for reopening a trio of tornado-damaged bank branches in Pulaski County, like so many other storm repair projects around Arkansas, is still unknown.
West Little Rock branches operated by Pine Bluff’s Simmons Bank and Batesville’s Citizens Bank were put out of action by a March 31 twister, along with an Eagle Bank & Trust office at 2310 E. Kiehl Ave. in Sherwood.
“The staff took shelter in the vault, and thankfully no one was hurt,” said Cathy Owen, chairman of Eagle Bank. “The tornado picked up the HVAC system and displaced a flat area of the roof.
“We’ve got to replace that HVAC system, which is causing our biggest delay. Everybody that does this kind of work is in high demand.”
Repairs to soffits and roofing are also on the to-do list at the Eagle branch as well as the Simmons branch at 10300 N. Rodney Parham Road and Citizens branch at 8000 Cantrell Road.
“We’ve got a contractor lined up, and we should be able to complete the repairs in 45-60 days,” said Adam Mitchell, president and CEO of Citizens.
The drive-through received most of the damage.
A diesel-powered generator is hooked up and cranking electrical power for the Simmons branch in the Colony West Shopping Center, though the office is closed to customers.
Damage to the standing seam roof is bandaged with a taut blue tarp, dangling conduit droops into the drive-through lanes, and plywood stands in for shattered glass panes here and there.
Insurance adjusters have yet to create a schedule for returning the leased location to operational order, according to Colony West owner Midland Atlantic Properties.
The natural disaster-prompted closures of the three bank branches activated a technical bit of Arkansas banking law.
Arkansas Bank Commissioner Susannah Marshall issued emergency proclamations that temporarily suspended “banking laws, regulations or requirements” regarding the branches.
Normally, banks aren’t allowed to be closed during the Monday-Friday business week except for bank holidays.
But Act 233 of 2009 took into account the possibility of extraordinary events that might require some accommodation by state regulators.
The change was inspired by the damage to the Gulf Coast banking network wrought by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Initially under Act 233, the emergency powers of the Arkansas bank commissioner could be brought into play by 10 states of emergency: natural disaster; tornado; storm; flood; high water; earthquake; drought; fire; an act of war, rebellion, violent demonstration or terrorism; or a robbery.
An 11th was added to the list with a 2017 amendment: cyberattack or cybersecurity breach.
The emergency proclamation essentially declares an extended bank holiday that allows the three branches to be closed for up to 120 days plus an additional 120 days if need be.
Provisions for a temporary branch office to meet the market needs of the damaged branches are moot because the banks have other locations to meet customer service needs.
“I hope we never have to initiate it again,” Marshall said of the tornado-triggered proclamations.